Kissing a Fool

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Why has Chicago become the most romantic city in recent movies? While You Were Sleeping, My Best Friend's Wedding, love jones and now Kissing a Fool have showcased Chicago as the place to fall in love.

But it's not just the location which makes this latest Chicago-based romantic romp feel overly familiar. Kissing a Fool focuses on a dilemma that has been around since the demise of arranged marriages: How does someone know if the one they're with is the right person?

Jay (Jason Lee), a writer whose first book details an ego-shattering breakup, sets up his old friend Max (David Schwimmer) with his editor Samantha (Mili Avital). The two literally have nothing in common: He's a cocky, womanizing sportscaster and she's soft-spoken, well-read and overly sensitive to the needs of others.

To Jay's amazement, a whirlwind romance ensues and a wedding date is quickly set. But little seeds of doubt begin to grow in the minds of the engaged couple, both of whom make Jay their confidant. Then Max raises the stakes by asking Jay to proposition Samantha as a test of her loyalty.

Screenwriter James Frey and co-writer/director Doug Ellin don't effectively explain the bone-headed rationale behind Max's decision, but wisely use it as a springboard for these three to take a good hard look at what they mean to each other. They've also constructed Kissing a Fool in an unconventional manner: The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks narrated by Jay's publisher (Bonnie Hunt).

This film provides the two male leads with the opportunity to play parts radically different from their best-known works (and Israeli actress Avital to add to her American resume). Schwimmer ("Friends") is unabashedly obnoxious as a macho buffoon caught off-guard by ardor, while Lee is the slouchy, sensitive conscience of the film, quite the opposite of his bitterly sardonic character in Chasing Amy.

Kissing a Fool is a great title &emdash; reflecting the clash of elation and embarrassment involved in some relationships &emdash; but can't mask the fact that the film it's attached to never rises above a yeoman romantic comedy.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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